How to Keep Debt at Bay
Start With Small Debts to Help You Conquer the Big Ones
If you have a mountain of debt, studies show paying off the little debts can give you the confidence to tackle the larger ones. You know, like paying off a modest balance on a department store card before getting to the card with the bigger balance. Of course, we generally recommend chipping away at the card with the highest interest rate, but sometimes psyching yourself up is worth it.
Don’t Ever Cosign a Loan
If the borrower—your friend, family member, significant other, whoever—misses payments, your credit score will take a plunge, the lender can come after you for the money, and it will likely destroy your relationship. Plus, if the bank is requiring a cosigner, the bank doesn’t trust the person to make the payments. Bonus tip for parents: If you’re asked to cosign a private loan for your college student, first check to see if your kid has maxed out federal loan, grant, and scholarship options.
Every Student Should Fill Out the FAFSA
Even if you don’t think that you’ll get aid, it doesn’t hurt to fill out the form. That’s because 1.3 million students last year missed out on a Pell Grant—which doesn’t need to be paid back!—because they didn’t fill out the form.
Always Choose Federal Student Loans Over Private Loans
Federal loans have flexible terms of payment if your employment dreams don’t exactly go according to plan after college. Plus, federal loans typically have better interest rates. So be smart about the loans you take out—and try to avoid these other big student loan mistakes.
If You’re Struggling With Federal Student Loan Payments, Investigate Repayment Options
Just call up your lender and ask whether they offer graduated, extended, or income-based plans. Read more about these options here.
Opt for Mortgage Payments Below 28% of Your Monthly Income
That’s a general rule of thumb when you’re trying to figure out how much house you can afford. Learn more about this number here. And then indulge in some voyeurism and see what other couples can afford.